This post is outside of my normal realm of SEO writing, but I felt like it needed to be written.
Today I read a blog post on 37Signals called Stop Whining and Start Hiring Remote Workers. I have been hearing people say, at an increasing rate, that “We’re in a global economy, so get with the times and hire people who live far aways, or open an office there.” Last night I was at dinner with Rand Fishkin, Michael King, and a number of others when this conversation came up. It’s something I’ve been thinking about.
Look at some of the greatest companies and where they started from. Look at why they succeed. I’ve got one word for you: culture.
Google has a great corporate culture (yes, they are international, but started out very small). SAS has an incredible culture in North Carolina. Zappos in Vegas. In the SEO world, SEOmoz has an unparalleled culture in Seattle. Even at Distilled, we hire for culture and that is a large part of why our company has become great.
But let’s not joke around. Being spread across three offices is hard. Having coworkers in two other locations and spread across eight time zones is taxing. Corporate culture suffers because of it, because we lack in the in-person time to connect. Sure, we have Skype and Gchat and Google+, but the connections that we would otherwise have with our coworkers are not as strong as they could be because of these distances. In fact, we’re having an all-company meeting in London for a week at the end of January precisely so that we can all interact together and get to know one another. Yes, it is a huge business expense, but our executives think that the camaraderie that comes from this week will be more than worth the immediate monetary expense in long-term value.
I am not saying that opening new offices is bad, or that hiring remote workers is always a bad idea (contrary to what the title says), as often the business decisions are sound. But think long and hard about WHY you are thinking to hire remote workers. Are the drawbacks really worth what you stand to gain?
A global economy is largely good (in my opinion). But a global economy with blanket lessons applied to everyone = dangerous. Just like we always say in SEO blog posts: “What worked for me may not work for you. Always be testing.”
I’d love your comments.